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Target set for Caroni land leases

Published: 
Monday, February 29, 2016
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat

Although Government has accelerated the preparation of leases for distribution to former Caroni (1975) Limited workers, more than 200 of them cannot be distributed because the beneficiaries never showed up to execute them, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said. The leases are for two-acre parcels of agricultural lands allocated under a 2003 VSEP agreement. 

Speaking at an agricultural and residential lease distribution ceremony for the former Caroni workers at Rienzi Complex, Couva, the minister reiterated his commitment to meet a target delivery of some 7,246 leases for the plots by December 31. 

He said: “I learnt only last evening, that of those persons called to execute leases towards the end of January, 205 failed to show up and there are leases available for execution that have not yet been executed. 

“So today, I ask that the union work alongside Caroni and the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries to make sure that we communicate with those persons whose leases are ready and awaiting execution so that we can move the process along.”

Rambharat told approximately 300 farmers at the ceremony that by the end of March he will make a clear statement as to how his ministry intends to address the backlog of commitments for distribution of State lands for agricultural purposes.

He lamented on the plight of farmers, including those in Mayaro, who are squatting on State lands, despite the voiced intentions of previous administrations to regularise land tenure. He said it was imperative that the resources of the ministry be put to use to fulfil Government’s commitment on land tenure. 

“I have the wonderful task of holding the very said ministry the Prime Minister held when he first became a minister in 1991, having previously served in his first job in the public service as a Fisheries Officer in Tobago,” he said.

“The Honourable Prime Minister is also a registered farmer so everything will be alright, not because of what I do, but what he makes sure I do.”

Jerry Hospedales, chairman, Caroni (1975) Limited, described the restructuring of the company as “an important step in the strengthening of the economy of Trinidad and Tobago with the reallocation of idle human and capital resources to much more efficient uses.” 

He added: “Indeed, with the current diversification plans to develop the agricultural sector the Government has committed itself to an efficient agro-based industry which could flourish in the country. The recently-appointed Committee for the Monitoring of Food Imports by Minister Rambharat would undoubtedly facilitate the expansion of agricultural production. This initiative would lead to the rebuilding and the repositioning of agriculture as a major sector which would anchor the achievement of food security in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Hospedales said establishment of commercial and industrial economic zones will facilitate the revitalisation of Caroni lands and the emerging and alternative economic opportunities will make difference in the lives of the former employees. 

“These lives would now be placed on a more sustainable footing than they were in the business model anchored on the sugar industry which had long lost its competitiveness and which depended on the State for regular subventions for survival,” he said.

“This model was not in the best interest of you the former employees and the distribution of leases today marks a turning point in your lives and indeed that of the communities within which the residential and agricultural estates are located.”